The Volusia Remembers Coalition invites the public to remember the life and mourn the wrongful death of Mr. Lee Bailey, a Volusia County victim of racial terror lynching on September 25, 1891 near downtown DeLand.
Mr. Bailey will be memorialized by collecting soil (at 9:00 AM on the 130-year anniversary of his murder) near the site of his murder near the intersection of Clara and Rich Avenues, followed by a ceremonial walk from there to the Noble Thin Man Watts Amphitheater at the African American Museum of the Arts, 322 S. Clara Ave. There Volusia Remembers will conduct a limited capacity ceremony and tree planting to honor the humanity of Lee Bailey and remember the segregated “Jim Crow” era conditions under which he lived and met his extrajudicial and brutal death.
To assure safety of our community during the ongoing pandemic, this is primarily a virtual ceremony.
The general public is invited to attend the ceremony virtually via Zoom on Saturday, September 25, 2021 at approximately 10:15 AM. Participants must register in advance at:
Registrants will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
Attendees of this unique event will learn from local academic historians about “Black Lives in DeLand in the 1890’s” (as well as the particulars of the “spectacle lynching” that robbed Mr. Bailey of his life and served as a warning to other “colored” citizens to “stay in their places”) and about why the Coalition believes it is important to remember such people and events as part of pursuing reconciliation and justice today.
The story will be told with historical truth-telling and artistic expression and will involve leaders from across Volusia County as well as representatives from our national partners at Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.
Following EJI’s practice, Volusia Remembers will collect a sample of the soil at the lynching site. This soil will be placed in two clear glass jars imprinted with Mr. Bailey’s name along with the date and location of his murder. One jar will be displayed at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. The other will be displayed initially at the African American Museum of the Arts in DeLand.
These modest memorials will honor Mr. Bailey, whose death by multiple gunshots and hanging after being abducted by a mob numbering 75-100 from police custody in the nearby county jail, denied him due process and equal protection under the law. His lifeless body, riddled with bullet holes, was left hanging from the tree for some time as a warning to other Blacks.
Additional Background follows . . .
Equal Justice Initiative founder (and best-selling author of Just Mercy) Bryan Stevenson states that: “I am not interested in punishing America with this history. I want to liberate us. I think we have never truly sought truth and reconciliation. We are not going to be free, really free, until we pursue that.” Inspired by Bryan Stevenson’s words and tireless work on behalf of the vulnerable, we expose the hard truths of our history in order to finally find healing. Exposing divisions does not create them, but rather creates hope that they will be overcome. Therefore, we only highlight local denials of justice and humanity in order to build a future of unity and respect wherein all citizens are treated according to their full humanity.
As a local partner of EJI, Volusia Remembers, a broad coalition of community leaders and citizens from both sides of Volusia County states: “We would all rather forget the ugly and painful parts of our history – including four racial terror lynchings in Volusia County. But honestly facing our untreated wounds is the first step toward understanding and resolving our present racial divisions. So, we invite our fellow Volusians to join us on this uncomfortable but unifying journey. Let’s heal our history.”
In that vein of “restorative truth-telling,” Volusia Remembers will continue in the coming years to hold similar memorials for other well-documented lynching victims from that era, namely: Anthony Johnson (1892); and Charles Harris (1896); as it has previously memorialized Lee Snell (1939) in a similar manner in 2020. These events are uncovering for Volusia County residents an uncomfortable vein of their history which many would rather forget. But remembering this hard history has a positive purpose: Volusia Remembers is already seeing honest racial dialogue develop between communities that were deeply divided by such atrocities.
In coming years, Volusia Remembers Coalition hopes to partner with EJI and Volusia County, to install historical markers about the era of Jim Crow injustice. We also hope to install a replica of the Volusia County monument on display at the National Memorial.
To learn more, get involved, or make a donation to support our work, engage with Volusia Remembers via:
– Volusia Remembers Coalition